We all have those books that create lasting impressions. Whether they inspired a love of a particular author or genre, or simply came at an important time in your life, there will always be some tomes that hold a special place in your heart. I thought I would list some of mine:
Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll
Plot: Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world filled with fascinating creatures.
Why it’s important to me: The first ‘big girl’ book I read when I was 7. At school you were allowed to read certain books when you reached a certain reading level and this was the first book I read when I reached the top reading level, I just remember being fully immersed in this foreign magical world.
A Candle in the Dark – Adele Geras
The plot: Two Jewish children are sent to the England by their parents to escape Nazi Germany and they wonder if they will ever see their parents again.
Why it’s important to me: One of the first fiction books I read about WWII at a young age and it really helped me understand just how terrible things were for Jewish people during the Nazi regime. I read this when I was about 8 or 9 years old and just remember feeling so scared for the children in the book.
Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Plot (fairly obvious): On his 11th birthday Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard and starts a life filled with adventure after he is enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Why it’s important to me: No list is complete for any twenty-something book lover without the Harry Potter Series. People who didn’t read the books can easily dismiss it as hype, but like all Harry Potter lovers know, J.K. Rowling didn’t just create some fun adventure stories, but lessons in how important love is and creating a wonderful, rich world which, on each re-read, feels a little bit like home.
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
Plot: When the Orient Express gets stuck in a snowdrift and a passenger with a shady past is discovered murdered in his cabin, Poirot must discover which of his fellow travellers is responsible.
Why it’s important to me: My first Agatha Christie which spawned a life-long love of Poirot and his little grey cells. Easily one of my favourite (if not my favourite) authors, I have read every one of Christie’s books and I will always remember my first foray into her work.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Plot: A lawyer attempts to ensure his black client has a fair trial during the racial tensions of 1930s USA as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Why it’s important to me: One of the first books to inspire strong emotions in me. I found myself feeling so frustrated and angry at the injustice faced by the black community in the book.
Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo
Plot: Two brothers fall in love with the same girl whilst also facing the horrors of the trenches during World War I.
Why it’s important to me: I read this book in one day whilst sitting on a beach in Spain. Having recently completed a school project on ‘Shot at Dawn’, it was the perfect accompaniment to highlight the hardships and injustice that these young men faced and the ‘crimes’ they were wrongly executed for, and I felt ashamed at how much of this part of history and the treatment of these men is brushed under the carpet.
Malvolio’s Revenge – Sophie Masson
Plot: A troupe of English actors travel around rural Louisiana performing a sequel to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. When they meet the beautiful and mysterious heiress of Illyria, their lives become intertwined with the magic and mystery of 1900s New Orleans.
Why it’s important to me: I received a proof copy of this book from my cousin after she found it discarded in the bookshop she worked in, and it quickly became one of my favourite books. I have yet to find someone else who has read it, but I cannot help but recommend this charming and sometimes spooky tale which blends Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with a bright and colourful New Orleans; it inspired a life-long ambition to travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Plot: In 1950s Barcelona young Daniel picks up a copy of The Shadow of the Wind after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The dark past of the book’s author and a mysterious figure burning copies of his books begins to affect Daniel’s own life.
Why it’s important to me: This was the first book I read of Zafon’s and I fell completely in love with his knack for storytelling. The mystical setting of Barcelona’s streets and the love of literature expressed in the book, quickly made this one of my favourite reads. It was a huge factor behind my decision to live and study in Barcelona, and the sequels continue to be just as captivating and magical. I also continue to be thoroughly impressed with Lucia Graves’ translations of his work which read just like original texts.
The Return – Victoria Hislop
Plot: On a visit to Spain, a young British woman discovers the story of an Andalucian family torn apart by the Spanish Civil War.
Why it’s important to me: I was always ashamed that I learned so little about the Spanish Civil War during my history education. I understand that growing up in the UK, most of our history lessons are focused on the British involvement in the World Wars, nevertheless, I always felt lacking in knowledge of my father’s country’s history. At Sixth Form and university I studied the war, but I have to say that The Return perfectly captures the way in which families were completely torn apart by the horrific conflict. I cried many times reading this book and I challenge anyone not to feel incredibly moved by the Ramirez family’s plight which was all too real for so many families and communities at the time.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Plot: Set in London in 2540 AD, reproduction is now carried out by artificial means and citizens are placed into predetermined classes. Advanced technology and entertainment feature heavily in people’s lives, however Bernard Marx feels like something isn’t quite right and his travels to the preserved ‘savage’ existence of the ancient world opens his eyes (it’s pretty hard to condense the plot into a couple of lines!)
Why it’s important to me: I love both A Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, but as I see our growing reliance on technology and social media and need to seek validation through these means, I can’t help but feel that perhaps Huxley’s bleak view of the future is closer to reality. His ideas that that the way to control the masses isn’t through censorship and oppression, but via never-ending streams of information and propaganda aimed at confusing and overwhelming us, delivered by those material items we value most, seems all too familiar.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss
Plot: A poem on what awaits you when you embark on adulthood.
Why it’s important to me: I think everyone should read this book on becoming an adult. Whether it’s when graduating university or leaving school to start work, this poem perfectly sums up what to expect in life; the highs, the lows and the loneliness, and the consequences of your decisions.
I am disappointed by how many of these deal with depressing or difficult subjects, but I feel often these themes tend to leave deeper impressions.
Which books have greatly affected you?